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From the Experts at

How Do I Improve My Credit Score Without Debt?

by Lucy Lazarony

How Do I Improve My Credit Score Without Debt?

The best way to improve a credit score is by making on-time payments.

Payment history accounts for 35% of a credit score, but there is no need to dig yourself into debt to improve your credit score.

Qualifying for a low-limit credit card is all you need.  Make a few small charges each month and pay your account in full each and every month.

Keeping charges below 10% of your credit card’s limit is good for your credit score as well. So if you have a card with a $500 limit, keeping your monthly charges below $50 is also a good, credit-building strategy.

If you are unable to qualify for an unsecured credit card because you are new to credit or have made credit mistakes in the past, apply for a secured card instead.

With a secured card, you make a small deposit, typically a couple of hundred dollars, with a credit card issuer. And your card’s credit line is your deposit minus any fees charged by the card issuer.

Make sure you choose a secured card that is reported to each of the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Then, make steady on-time payments with a secured card and keep charges below 10% of your credit line. And after a year of on-time payments, ask your issuer for an unsecured credit card.

You can keep track of your credit-building with’s free credit tools. You’ll receive two free credit scores and a customized plan to build your credit. And because your data is updated each month, you will be able to track your progress.

Remember: The key is building up a good solid payment record, not acquiring debt. Only charge what you can pay off each month, and maximize your credit-building efforts by following the 10% rule.

Then, pay your bills on time and watch your credit score climb.

  • Dan

    4 years ago I bought a house and at that time my credit score was something like 750. 3 years ago I paid off and cancelled my credit cards, then I paid off my house. I have never borrowed any money since paying off the house, I currently have no debt of any kind. How would my credit score look today.

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  • Meet Our Expert

    lucy_lazarony GravatarLucy Lazarony is a freelance personal finance writer. Her articles have been featured on Bankrate, MoneyRates, MSN Money, and The National Endowment for Financial Education. Prior to freelancing, she worked as a staff writer for Bankrate for seven years. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida and spent a summer as an international intern at Richmond, The American International University in London. She lives in South Florida.
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